Shula's Words Hit Home in Emotional Day

He read Mike Shula's statement silently to himself, rubbing his right cheekbone with his index finger, deftly choking back emotion while dozens of reporters huddled around waiting quietly for a response.

"I don't think he has anything to apologize to us for," Wilson said. "I think he put us in the best situation that we could to go out there and win. I don't think he has anything to apologize for. (Shula and I) were pretty close and I had a really good relationship with him. I don't know."

Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson's muted reaction summed up many of the feelings about Mike Shula's dismissal as Alabama's head football coach Wednesday night: sadness mixed with a great uncertainty about the future.

"I want to thank our players and their families for committing to our mission," Shula said in a statement issued to the media Monday afternoon. "I am sorry that our record this past year did not reflect your passion and commitment to winning. When we met Sunday night, I fully believed that I was going to remain the head coach at the University. I apologize that you did not learn about my firing from me."

Shula told his players, "Do not let the circumstances of my firing allow you to lose your focus. Do not let this transition rob you of your potential for greatness. Together with the talented recruits who have committed to join the Tide next year, I am fully confident that the pieces are in place for you to accomplish great things."

His 395-word statement addressed the public, his players and assistant coaches.

"I am deeply disappointed to be fired as the Head Football Coach at the University of Alabama," he said. "From my very first day on this job, I had a single mission: To return the Crimson Tide to its place among the elite programs in college football. Although I maintain that we were moving steadily in that direction, I regret sincerely that I will not be given the opportunity to finish the job I was hired to do.

"I am forever grateful to my loyal coaching staff, who worked so tirelessly to help us overcome the difficulties we faced during these past four years. Despite inherited restrictions, including probation and scholarship limits, our teams played with integrity and commanded respect. Our 10-2 record in 2005 was no fluke; it was evidence of a program on the rise. Although the past season was not as fulfilling, it was nevertheless a season that witnessed the emergence of several young players who will help the Crimson Tide win big in the years to come."

"Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank those of you who made our four-year stay at Alabama a rewarding experience. Your kindness toward me, Shari and our family will be remembered fondly.

"In closing, I leave Alabama proud that the football program is a better place than the one I inherited four years ago. Although time will ultimately gauge the depth of our progress, I am confident that the return on our efforts will be realized by the University and its football community.

"As a former player and a graduate of this great University, I wish the program great success in the years ahead. Roll Tide."


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